Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam: Paper - IV (General Studies – III) - 16 October 2018


Answer Writing Practice for UPSC IAS Mains Exam


UPSC Syllabus:

  • Paper-IV: General Studies -III (Technology, Economic Development, Bio-diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management)

Q. Discuss the significance of India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project and the hurdles it has been mired in so far in India. (250 words)

Model Answer:

Approach:

  • Why in news?
  • INO – What and Why
  • Hurdles it has been facing
  • Conclusion

Why in news?

A person affiliated to Tamil Nadu’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), had immolated himself on Saturday while protesting against the upcoming India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project in Theni district.

Initially planned to become operational in 2020, the INO, designed to detect and study the properties of neutrino, has been delayed by several years, due to a variety of reasons, including protests by locals, and the last year’s decision of the National Green Tribunal to suspend the environmental clearance pending a wildlife approval for the site which is barely five kilometres from a national park.

INO – What

  • The INO project involves the construction of an underground neutrino detector (specially built iron calorimeter detector), to be placed about 1.5 km below the earth’s surface where the chances of detecting neutrinos are higher.
  • Neutrino research is one of the most exciting areas in physics as of now, and yielded Nobel Prizes in 2002 and 2015. Scientists of several countries believe that neutrino study may be holding important clues to some of the basic questions about the universe. China, Japan and Europe have their own neutrino observatories.
  • The INO project is being executed by a research group based at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, in collaboration with 25 other scientific institutions.

 INO – Why (significance)

  • Neutrinos are the second most abundant subatomic particle in the universe, after photons, or light particles. They have no charge, but thought to have a small, as-yet-undetermined, mass. They are everywhere but are extremely difficult to detect because they interact poorly with other objects, passing through human body without a trace. Going underground, however, slightly increases their chances of being “seen” because of the absence of noise and other kinds of disturbances.
  • The project will aim to determine the mass of neutrinos and establish a “mass order” among the three known types of neutrinos – electron, muon and tau.
  • A large number of neutrinos present in the universe are believed to have been produced at the time of the Big Bang, making them good candidates to extract more information about the origins of the universe.
  • Using giant neutrino detectors physicists may be able to predict earthquakes and/or volcano eruptions by detecting geoneutrinos.
  • Neutrinos hide within them a vast pool of knowledge and could open up new vistas in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics, communication and even in medical imaging,through the detector spin-offs.
  • Since every type of matter particle has an anti-matter partner particle associated with it, there are also anti-neutrinos that the INO can observe. The INO, by observing the rates at which neutrinos and anti-neutrinos oscillate, will make a substantial contribution to the quest to unravel the secrets of the ultimate laws of physics.
  • It will promote scientific culture in the country.
  • India will have the opportunity to repeat the success story it has achieved in space programs under ISRO.

Hurdles it has been facing

The project has been mired in one problem or the other for about a decade.

  • Based upon the suggestions of the Geological Survey of India, INO was initially planned to be set up in Singara (near Ooty), in the Nilgiris. However, the nearby Mudumalai National Park (barely five kilometres) was declared a tiger reserve during the same time, and environmental clearance to the project was denied for this reason.
  • Therefore, the project had to be relocated to its current location in Bodi West Hill area, Theni district.
  • The project has also faced stiff opposition for a variety of reasons. While some people argued that the project was actually a decoy for storing nuclear waste, others raised concerns about the possibility of nuclear or radioactive emissions. None of it is true.
  • Currently it’s being said that the construction of tunnels at the site would affect the stability of the Idukki dam, some 40 km away, and the project would contaminate the groundwater at the location. None of this is correct again.

Conclusion

The project will prove to be a milestone in unfolding new secrets about the universe however it should met all the prerequisites to get the environmental clearance. Meanwhile, the current activity of mass awareness should continue.

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